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Niagara College Game Development alum Andres Coimbra Castedo sheds light on Oscar-winning animated film Pinocchio

Just a few years into his career as a lighting artist and Niagara College alumnus Andres Coimbra Castedo (Game Development, 2019) is already dazzling viewers on the big screen.

At the 95th Academy Awards, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. The stop-motion animated musical film – a take on the childhood classic about a wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy – was Coimbra’s first-ever film project.

The work of lighting artists like Coimbra adds depth and realism to computer-generated (CG) graphics in animated films by adjusting colour, intensity and placement of light.

From Game Development at Niagara College to launching The Fallen, a video game he produced with his classmates for their capstone project, Coimbra was inspired to transition from programming and 3D art to lighting.

“I chose lighting because it genuinely feels like painting a picture with mood, contrast, and composition using only lights,” he said. “Thankfully, the college gave me the skills necessary to work in multiple industries.”

“We are so proud of Andres,” says Charles Kopun, Associate Dean of Media. “It’s always so gratifying to see our students succeed and be recognized in their industry. With Andres, it was a great accomplishment celebrated on the biggest stage in the world.”

Professor Conor MacNeill taught Coimbra in the Game Development program. “Andres was an exemplary student, he worked very hard, and was extremely passionate about games, and art. He had a great eye for detail and lighting, and was part of the first NC team to release their game on Steam.”

Since graduating, the Bolivian native, who now lives in St. Catharines, worked at video game studios before landing jobs in the visual effects (VFX) industry. The opportunity to work in the lighting department on Pinocchio came from a message on LinkedIn.

“This movie was unique in the sense that it is all stylized, so we had a bit of creative say in how our shots and sequences looked like,” said Coimbra. Filmmaker del Toro is known for using fantastical, gothic storytelling to evoke human emotion.

While he may not get to hold the statuette, the win for Pinocchio means a lot to Coimbra.

“I am grateful and honoured to have been part of such a great undertaking,” he said. “It was a team effort from all the departments and companies that participated. It was surreal to see your own name in a movie that the entire world can see! I still can’t believe it.”

In a moving acceptance speech, del Toro proclaimed, “Animation is cinema, animation is not a genre. Animation is ready to be taken to the next step.” That sentiment resonated with Coimbra.

“For a long time in the West, we have seen animation as a thing for children. But we have seen how other countries like Japan treat it with more seriousness, really pushing the boundaries that animation can reach,” said Coimbra. “Thankfully, we are starting to see a shift in the perception we have of animation as a whole and I am happy to see what comes next – and eager to work on as many projects as I can get my hands on.”

Coimbra is continuing his work as a lighting artist with Herne Hill Media and has big dreams for the future, pursuing more captivating projects to unleash his full creative capacity and perhaps even tell his own stories on the big screen in the future.